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tv   Washington Week With Gwen Ifill  PBS  September 27, 2013 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT

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gwen: shutdowns and showdowns over budget politics, diplomacy and threats of every kind, tonight on "washington week." >> deliver us from governing by judicious compromise for the mutual progress of all. gwen: praying for compromise with none in sight as tea party republicans use a debate over the budget and the debt ceiling to try to derail the health care law. >> madam president, i rise today in opposition to obamacare. gwen: republican leaders are less than thrilled. >> i don't think filibustering
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a bill that defunds obamacare is the best route. gwen: and democrats are pushing back. >> you can huff, you can puff for 21 hours, but you cannot blow the affordable care act away. >> no congress before this one been r, ever in history irresponsible enough to threaten default. gwen: while at the united nations, compromise does take center stage. on syria -- >> i was pleased to have a meeting with the foreign minister. gwen: and on iran -- >> i believe we have a responsibility to pursue diplomacy. we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in tehran. gwen: with us tonight are gloria borger of cnn, karen
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tumulty of the washington post. kimberly dozier of the associated press and doyle mcmanus of the "los angeles times." >> award-winning reporting and analysis. covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> at northrop grumen we know in cyberworld threats are always evolving the. at first we were protecting networks then we were protecting the transfer of data and today it's evolved to infrastructure. finance. and military missions. we are constantly innovating to distance the frontline in the cyberbattle. that's the value of performance. >> additional corporate funding
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for "washington week" is provided by prudential. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. washington was split in two this week with one eye on the unfolding drama on capitol hill over the republican effort to derail the health care law and the other on the united nations where there was tangible movement on iran and syria. we start on the hill where the senate voted today to turn aside a republican effort to strip funding from the health care law from the budget. the vote divided republicans through the bill back to the fractious house, setting the stage for more fights to come. in the house does not agree with the senate approach, will the government be forced to
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shut down when the fiscal year ends monday at midnight? ted cruz, who tried to derail it by talking for 21 hours says the senate is not listening to the american people. >> we're home on the campaign trail. we say we listen. and yet something about this washington, d.c., i don't know if it's in the water, the air, the tchery blossoms, but people get here and stop listening to the american people. gwen: the president took it to the campaign trail. >> congress needs to put an end to governing from crisis to crisis. this is not about politics, it's about the future of our country. gwen: what happens next, karen? >> what's now is i think all eyes are on john boehner and whether he can come up between now and the beginning of the new fiscal year, midnight, october 1, that's tuesday, with some kind of bill that could
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keep the government open. now, that's going to mean appeasing his tea party members on his side of the capital and also coming up with something that is acceptable to the senate. otherwise we're into shutdown time and ironically enough, the government would shut down but obamacare would proceed on that very day and enrollment in the exchanges would begin whether or not the government shuts down. gwen: it's interesting to me that this has been bounced back and forth, ping-pong ball between the house and senate that as we sit here at 8:00 on friday night, they've both left town. there's no all week long discussions and meetings that we know about trying to figure this out. >> what's stunning to me and i think all of us have covered these on the brink kinds of things is that there aren't many behind closed doors discussions at all between democrats and republicans. the republicans are busy and
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they're going to have a meeting at noon on saturday trying to get their own caulk news order, on the house side but there's no closed door negotiations with house staffers, hill staffers. zero, nada. none of that. because the president has said we are not going to negotiate on this, period. you don't negotiate, as he put it with somebody trying to burn your house down or whatever. they're using really strong language at the white house. hostage taking. bonds strapped to the chest. they're just not talking. gwen: is there a difference between the strategy playing out on the debt ceiling, which runs out october 17, our ability to pay our bills and the budget, which has to be funded by october 1. the white house seems more upset about the former than the latter. >> well, the consequences of the debt ceiling, going into a
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default are much, much greater than the consequences of shutting down the government for a few days or even a few weeks. what happens with the debt ceiling is -- first of all it's important to remember the debt ceiling is not about controlling spending or controlling the deficit. it's about whether you pay the bills you've already run up and once you hit the debt ceiling, things like social security checks would cease to go out and our credors around the world, there's a -- creditors around the world, there's a real chance of a global meltdown. >> here's the thing about public opinion on this. public opinion is on the first one, don't shut the government down but if you look at the polls on the debt ceiling, people believe it should actually be tied to some kind of budget compromise because the feeling naturally is if you can't pay your credit card you have to figure out a way to
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tighten your belt and even the president today in making comments about this said remember the good old days two years ago when we had that fight over the debt ceiling? at least then he said we were talking about reducing the deficit. he said now this isn't about reducing the deficit, although republicans think obowl care will add to the deficit. he said this is about an agenda that you're trying to attach to the debt ceiling and that's wrong. >> let me ask you to go one step further into the polls. both sides keep saying here's what the american people want. the president says, the democrats say. the american people want the government to stay open. ted cruz, tea party republicans say the american people want obamacare delayed or defunded. they can't both be right or can they? >> yeah, they could. if the polls show it's not very popular. people are confused by it,
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don't know what to expect. it was voted on years ago but now coming to fruition. like anybody, you don't really pay attention to something until it's in front of you and you have to look at it. in a way they may both be right. >> even the republicans' own polls are very consistent that yes, people do not like obamacare by about a 10-point margin. what they like even less is the idea of shutting down the government to stop it. gwen: so how far are republicans willing to go on this? ted cruz was the ring leader this week and apparently tonight continues to be. >> every republican has been outspoken and eloquent against obama scare can -- obamacare and when the house stands up and does the right thing, i think it will present a terrific opportunity for every senate republican to stand arm in arm with the house
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republicans. gwen: he sent a pretty strong signal there. >> and what we found out today, something truly extraordinary, a report in the national review was that even as john boehner was in the house trying to figure out what to do next, ted cruz was in a meeting talking to house republicans telling them to rebel against their own speaker. unheard of. >> that's a big no-no trying to do that. >> so i'm wondering, if the government shuts down midnight monday night into tuesday, who will get the blame? who will be the ville lain from the public's point of view? >> right now the polls suggest the public is evenly divided but i think if you talked to anyone who lived through this the last time -- we're talking about less than 1/5 of the house republicans, they are pretty clear that they know which side has the bully pulpit
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and which side is going to get blamed. gwen: in the meantime the democrats all are professing sadness rather than anger and saying this is a terrible thing the republicans are doing. whatever shall i do? let's listen to harry reid. they're using strong language. >> people want to work with us to improve obamacare, we've done that before. we're happy to work with them but not in some slam bang force to us do it way. we're not going to be extorted. gwen: we're not going to be extorted. harry reid uses strong language in the mildest possible way but what do the democrats do? >> they're sitting back and letting it happen because the fight is on the republican side for a change and they kind of like that. gwen: the senator from tennessee taking on ted cruz -- >> right and they're kind of stirring the pot.
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they believe that they're not the problem. they believe that the public doesn't want to shut the government down. they believe they have a very good case to make, that they're not shutting the government down. i think what reid is doing ask saying don't look at me, it's not us. watching -- washing his hands of it. that's what we heard the president do when he spoke in maryland the other day and today. this is a white house that believes right now they're on the better side of this argument. i would argue in the long term, though, in answer to your question about who does the public blame, at some point the people expect the president to lead. they believe the energy for some kind of resolution -- if you don't find the adults in the congress, they're going to believe that the energy has to come from the white house. >> i want to ask on that question about the debt ceiling. everybody understands, as karen said, that the consequences of a debt ceiling breach could really be terrible but as i
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understand it in the house, the republican heeleders -- leaders have said that ceiling is the main event. we're really going to dig in our heels on the main event. president obama said he won't negotiate. does he have to negotiate? gwen: not today. >> one thing he says is sort of inaccurate. he indicates negotiations over a debt ceiling have never happened before. we've all seen them happen, but i do think that -- the president negotiated over the debt ceiling in 2011 and ended up with sequestration and a lot of other things and i think that that has soured him. gwen: and unreturned phone calls from john boehner. >> and we ended up with the fiscal cliff. gwen: is crisis the new normal now in washington? >> yeah. look, i think there's no penalty for people not compromising. in fact, if you live in those 40 or 50 districts we're
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talking about in the house, you'll be penalized if you compromise. >> the problem is all these crises never settle anything. all they do is set you up for the next crisis. gwen: in fact, we're talking about short-term solutions. >> and they may kick this can down the road. gwen: our favorite metaphor is back. thanks, everybody. a lot of moving pieces this week on the international stage as well. the players, the president of the u.s. and iran and the u.s. secretary of state and his counterparts from iran and russia. the president spoke by telephone to hassan rouhani today, the president of iran and said afterwards he sees an opening. >> now, we're mindful of all the challenges ahead. the very fact that this was the first communication between an american and iranian president since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries but it also indicates the
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prospect of moving beyond that difficult history. gwen: this was quite the straddling of the fence, not just from the u.s. >> but it was an amazing charm offensive from the iranian side. hassan rouhani. we're not used to an iranian president, muslim cleric, treating us this way. he did more media in the past week than some presidential candidates -- gwen: i met with him, you met with him. >> he did everything but fundraisers. twitter feed. it was quite as stoppishing. almost overkill. maybe a -- as stoppishing. almost overkill. on tuesday there was the question of whether there would be a handshake between president obama and president rouhani. by the end of the week the phone call was arranged. the iranians said yeah, let's
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do a phone call. president obama actually placed the call. what changed in the course of the week? and rouhani said at a news conference on friday, he gave an interesting answer. he said one of the things i've learned while i was here is that the attitude of the united states and these other outside powers that we, the iranians have been so concerned about, it's changed. if you ask people in the obama administration, have you changed? no. that was a big signal to rouhani, to his boss and his peers in the iranian government that i think these people who we've been calling the great satin are people we can do business with. gwen: sanctions have been in place all these years -- >> that is absolutely the big change. if you look at the iranian economy, it is a mess. the most recent set of sanctions -- two things, they don't have access to the world banking system anymore and
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their oil sales have been going down and that is killing them. they need to find a way out. >> which of these gestures were just gestures and what was significant in this? >> that's the $64 billion question. on the substance of the nuclear question, neither side moved very far. the iranians said we're still going to insist we have the right to enrich uranium. the united states is other big powers said, no you have to stop enriching uranium now. what did they do that gives you a sense of optimism? i think the best thing the iranians said was time is short. we want to get this done in a year or six months. why is that important? because in the west everybody has always worried, and israel has always worried that the iranians are playing us for time. they want to make the clock go slower so they can keep
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enriching uranium -- if they want to make the clock go fast, that's a change. >> the president said everything had to be verifiable. how do we verify and how do we trust, not to use reagan's phrase but how do we do that? and if we can't trust them doesn't this become a political problem for the president? >> trust is the right world. you'll have to build it over time. you verify it in the long run by having inspectors and cameras and sensors. in the short run, there's going to be a meeting in geneva in the middle of october and the iranians have said we're going to have a concrete proposal then so there will be a pretty early test of whether there's any substance about the -- behind the charm. >> what about israel? netanyahu spoke this week.
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it sounded like his watch is running a lot faster. >> his watch is still running at its israeli pace. yes, certainly the netanyahu government are pretty frantic because they see all of the different ways that the iranians could be pulling the wool over our eyes and that leads us to where a lot of the political problem already -- will be in the united states. i mentioned rouhani has political problems at home in tehran. you want to sell this to congress, in israel. a lot of sanctions were imposed by congress. congress gets a vote in taking them off and congress, as we know, moves very quickly and efficiently. gwen: we talked about this big, historic phone call. what was that, do e-- do you know? >> not a whole lot was said. they only talked for 15 minutes. there was interpretation. we're told they basically said to each other yeah, let's do
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this. we have more confidence in each other. they both worked hard on the at feerks and how do we know that? because at the end of the call president rouhani said in english have a nice day and president obama cailed in farsi "god protect you." gwen: oh, my goodness. that's huge. and then he tweeted it all. let's move on. we just heard a few minutes ago that the u.n. security council gave the administration another claim to a partial foreign policy victory this week, voting unanimously on a resolution to start checking on syrians chemical weapons. the united nations finally took these steps to end the stockpile of chemical weapons. >> realistically it's doubtful we would have arrived at this point if not nor a credible threat of u.s. action in the
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aftermath of the horrific tragedy that took place on august 21st where chemical weapons killed over 1,000 people, including more than 400 children. gwen: less than a month ago we seemed to be on the verge of military action, war. what happened, kim? >> secretary of state john kerry misspoke or -- gwen: whatever it was he did. >> whatever it was he did. answered a question at a press donches when he was asked -- conference coss -- conference when he was asked what could head off a u.s. strike. he said they could disarm. within hours russian officials responded saying i think we can make that happen. later syrians said yes. fast forward, the u.n. this week, there was a lot of politicking behind closed doors and russia and the u.s. came to an agreement. it doesn't have the peace in it
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that the u.s. wanted. this imposes -- sorry, this requires syria to disarm its chemical weapons, to allow inspectors unfettered access but it doesn't have either sanctions or military action as a punitive response if syria -- gwen: but the president suggested that that was the promise of it or the threat of it which even got them this far. is he right? >> he's right. according to some of the officials that you speak to, syria knew that its back was against the wall and it wanted a way out. russia wanted a way to establish that it has more influence in the middle east right now than the u.s. does and so they saw an opening for a deal. but if you step back from all of this, yes, talk to some republicans on the hill, they say this is an embarrassment for the white house. they gave russia the high
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ground on this. big picture, i can remember sitting in briefings where pentagon officials were trying to figure out, there are 50 or 60 weapon sites. we know that the al qaeda group wants to capture them. how can we get them under lock and key? this deal could do that without putting any u.s. boots on the ground. could it also result in months of delays? perhaps more chemical strikes? programs. >> you guys are the experts. is it your interpretation of this that the united states still reserves the right to use force if this should all fall apart? >> yes, and there's also the option that they can go to the u.n. security council for a second resolution to punish syria. >> so they could do it you know laterally or -- >> or through u.n. action. it could come also in the form of sanctions at the u.n.
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>> as a pracks tall matter, does it, having gone through this process, make it harder for the u.s. administration to say, oh, never mind the security council. we've now decided to go it alone? >> it would be pretty extraordinary when they've signaled to the u.s. and the world that doing a punitive strike against syria is the last things in terms of effectiveness. they indicated that it would be short and sharp, would hit some 's command n regime and control centers and some of the areas that they use to develop these chemical weapons t didn't have much of a plan dwhroonled and that's what i was hearing on the hill. their frustration with it was what do you do then? now russia bears the responsibility if this falls over. gwen: it's interesting because
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nobody knows if they can trust russia either. all these conversations we're having tonight are about compromise that nobody nose -- >> and trust. gwen: thank you all so much. welcome to "washington week," kimberly. we have to end it there but the conversation will continue online at pbs.org slash "washington week." the live stream starts at 8:30 p.m. and continues all weekend long. and the news doesn't stop so we don't either. the brand-new pbs news hour weekend, check your local listings for the time and i'll see you during the week on the pbs news hour and here again next week on "washington week." ood night.
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